Sundance ’16: Discovery launches “Impact” series

Discovery Channel has revealed plans for a "Discovery Impact" series focusing on environmental docs, and has also teamed up with the Sundance Institute to launch an Impact Fellowship.
January 24, 2016

Discovery Channel has revealed plans for a “Discovery Impact” series, while teaming with the Sundance Institute for an Impact Fellowship, with Chasing Ice director Jeff Orlowski tapped as the inaugural Impact Fellow.

The new venture – planned for 2017 – was unveiled at a reception at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday (January 23). The series of films will focus “on humankind’s impact on the environment” and the solutions available to societies. Before next year’s launch, however, audiences can expect a “Discovery Impact” special titled Drought, and featuring the contributions of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt) Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A.) Alan and Susan Raymond, (I Am A Promise:  The Children of Stanton Elementary School) and Jesse Moss (The Overnighters).

Presented with New York-based journalism organization ProPublica, the doc looks at the U.S. water crisis affecting 40% of the population, and presents stories on the “causes and consequences of [the] water disaster-in-the-making,” along with potential solutions. Epstein and Friedman are to serve as co-executive producers.

“At Discovery, we want to support the best environmental storytellers that ignite our audience to engage in the most critical issues of our time and act upon them,” said Rich Ross - group president of Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel – in a statement.

The exec, who was in attendance at the festival, noted that Discovery acquired Louie Psihoyos’ Racing Extinction shortly after its world premiere at Sundance last year. The film aired on Discovery Channel in December, and reached 35.6 million total viewers worldwide, according to the net.

“Discovery demonstrated it can and will give these films a platform to get their messages out to the world,” said Ross.

Elsewhere, the Sundance Institute | Discovery Channel Impact Fellowship will honor filmmakers whose repertoires tell stories “that reflect the fragile and changing nature of our planet in the service of protecting it.” The grant money – which has not been disclosed – can be used at the fellow’s discretion and is intended to help sustain their commitment to environmental work.

Orlowski is the founder of the prodco Exposure Labs, and most recently produced the film Frame by Frame. Among his upcoming projects is a doc examining the health of the world’s coral reefs.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.